THE FIRST LIGHT

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Ritual in any form has the power to elevate human consciousness. It’s one of the reasons it’s so inherent in religious and cultural belief systems- an uplifting force for connecting communities, reaching spiritual connection, and practicing presence. 

Every year Muslims around the world anticipate the sighting of a new crescent moon, marking the beginning of the most sacred month in Islamic culture, the Holy Month of Ramadan. At the crack of each dawn and to the call to prayer, Muslims awaken to pray and partake in Suhoor, the meal before sunrise and before fasting begins. Over the course of 30 days, daily fasting and rituals symbolize a time for giving back, spiritual growth, connection and practicing intentionality. 

To help us celebrate, we asked our community to share their early morning rituals, practices and intentions throughout the month. For some, Suhoor is had at home surrounded by family or hosted by friends. For others, it may be skipped altogether. Despite the pandemic’s disruption of many traditions, our community opened up on how they are coping with the current times, connecting with their families near and far, and their faith. The Holy month remains the same for many, bringing them closer to faith and loved ones, and honoring the divine forces that connect us all. 

Ramadan Cheat-Sheet:

Suhoor/Sehri: The pre-dawn meal observing Muslims have just before sunrise and the start of their fasting day during Ramadan.

Iftar: The meal that observing Muslims break their fast with after Sunset during Ramadan.

Taraweeh: Special prayers conducted after every evening’s last daily prayer during Ramadan.

How is your Ramadan going so far?

I’ve been very productive so far this Ramadan. Due to me mostly staying home spending time with family and in my room with that my productive brain cells burst of different ideas I’ll bring to life.

It’s the second Ramadan since the pandemic, how does this year compare to the last?

Last Ramadan we could barely go out with a curfew, but this Ramadan we can host gatherings and see more friends and family which helps in getting into the Ramadan spirit. 

Do you have a specific focus or intention for the month?

Being alone is when I mostly get creative and my brain flows with a lot of ideas. This Ramadan I want to focus on personal projects and just express myself through them.

Do you usually wake up for Suhoor/Sehri?

I do. Either I don’t sleep until the Adhan or I wake up half an hour before the Adhan. Suhoor to me is always hectic because I eat very last minute. 

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Describe your Suhoor/Sehri routine. 

Suhoor isn’t like Iftar for us. We don’t sit on the table and eat all as a family. Everyone just goes into the kitchen and heats up whatever they want to eat. To me it’s very last minute, rushed and unprepared.

Favorite Suhoor/Sehri meal or go-to snack?

WATER! I drown myself with water before the call for the Adhan.

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How does your workflow change throughout the month?

I work mostly at night, due to me mostly sleeping throughout my day. I tend to create mostly at home since I want to spend more time with family.

How are you connecting with your loved ones at this time?

In Ramadan we as a family tend to have a lot of activities going on such as board games, playing different sports or just watching a series together. That helps us bond more as a family and gives us more time together.

What do you hope to accomplish and/or take away from this Ramadan?

To have more time with myself and with family. When it’s not Ramadan I’m not always home or around people and friends. Being alone is a big part of me I need it every now and then to recharge and to keep my creative brain cells going. 

Noor Elkhaldi, Digital Creator

How is your Ramadan going so far?

The caffeine withdrawal headaches have finally subsided which is great, and I’m enjoying the calm that comes with fasting.

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It’s the second Ramadan since the pandemic, how does this year compare to the last?

In complete candor, last Ramadan was definitely more of a challenge. I felt very isolated and never really got my fix of the “Ramadan spirit”. My favorite part of Ramadan is spending time with family and friends which wasn’t really possible last year due to the pandemic and wanting to keep everyone safe. This year I’m so lucky to be fully vaccinated, and so are most of my loved ones so we’ve actually been able to have Iftar together almost daily which I’m really grateful for.

Do you have a specific focus or intention for the month?

Being charitable is an integral part of Ramadan, and this year I’ve really been focusing on being consistently charitable throughout the entire month.

Do you usually wake up for Suhoor/Sehri?

I’m going to be totally honest… Not really. Primarily because I love uninterrupted sleep too much, but also because waking up in the middle of the night to eat then going back to sleep doesn’t really feel the best for me. 

Describe your Suhoor/Sehri routine. 

When I do actually wake up, I’m usually just frantically trying to chug as much water as possible and maybe eating something small.

Favorite Suhoor/Sehri meal or go-to snack?

I’ve recently developed a bit of a protein bar obsession, which is honestly one of the best Suhoor options I’ve ever tried because it doesn’t feel super heavy, it’s easy, and all the protein helps keep me feeling full for a bit longer throughout my fast. My favorite snack is definitely watermelon though, it’s so refreshing and it just hits differently during Ramadan.

How does your workflow change throughout the month?

My work schedule is essentially the same since I typically like to get the bulk of my work done early in the day, which is perfect since I feel most energetic in the mornings during Ramadan. I tend to record my podcast later in the afternoon which has been interesting, to say the least (and by interesting I mean I completely forget how to speak by 4pm), but luckily my audience seems to like it when I’m a little delirious.

What intentions do you put behind fasting?

My intention throughout the month is to feel more connected to my faith.

How are you connecting with your loved ones at this time?

There is something uniquely unifying about breaking your fast with friends and family, which I feel immensely lucky to be able to experience again this year.

What do you hope to accomplish and/or take away from this Ramadan?

More self-discipline, more gratitude, and more inner peace.

Ilyes Cherni, Film Director

How is your Ramadan going so far?

Ramadan is going fast by bike in the downtown of Tunis. We have special restrictions for cars due to COVID so we either walk or use bikes to move in the neighborhood. My bike is my ride during this month and I really enjoy it.

It’s the second Ramadan since the pandemic, how does this year compare to the last?

It has been exactly like last year, but with more self-preparation and acceptance of the situation.

Do you have a specific focus or intention for the month?

Yes, I am dedicating this month to prepare our new workplace in downtown Tunis. I decided to have the new studio downtown to be in the middle of the city’s vibrations, closer to my source of inspirations and next to the cultural and historical scenes.

Do you usually wake up for Suhoor/Sehri?

Yes, I usually do.

Describe your Suhoor/Sehri routine. 

I usually wake up at 3am if I sleep early or stay up until 3am to work on my projects, I always listen to music before sleeping, and I make a breakfast meal for Suhoor as it’s my favorite.

Favorite Suhoor/Sehri meal or go-to snack?

I am crazy about homemade Cakes with seasonal fruits.

How does your workflow change throughout the month?

I spend more time than usual doing grocery shopping and trying new recipes. 

What intentions do you put behind fasting?

Fasting is about feeling what people in need feel through their day…but these people don’t get around a big Iftar table when they get the chance to eat. Serving everyday a meal to the homeless people in the neighborhood is something that I decided to do and keep doing.  

How are you connecting with your loved ones at this time?

Sharing Iftar meals with people I love is one of the most important things to connect with them during Ramadan but sadly with restrictions we don’t have this chance anymore. We try to have a regular virtual contact through video calls to keep everybody safe.

What do you hope to accomplish and/or take away from this Ramadan?

I really hope that this pandemic will end very soon, and we can go back to our normal life again. 

Shukriya Mohamed, Model and Blogger

How’s your Ramadan going so far? 

Ramadan is going well! I appreciate this time most in the year because you’re forced to really take it easy and focus on your Deen. Life gets so busy and crazy I lose track of just being in the moment. 

It’s the second Ramadan since the pandemic, how does this year compare to the last?

Last year’s Ramadan was hard. Very hard. I remember not feeling the Ramadan mood at all. I was too busy worried about my next paycheck, if I was going to able to see my family anytime soon and just a general feeling of dread.  It was really lonely. This year’s Ramadan is quite different. Living in Dubai our Covid restrictions are pretty calm compared to the rest of the world. I can visit my friends and family and have proper Iftars and Ramadan nights with them. It’s a lot more doable this year than it was the last.

Do you have a specific focus or intention for the month?

My focus this time around is getting better at my Deen. Reading more of The Quran, praying all the 5 prayers, and doing everything with the right intentions vs it being a feeling of obligation. Another would be my personal self-care like planning for my future, caring for my skin and my body, and affirming myself. I struggle with that the most. 

Do you usually wake-up for Suhoor/Sehri?

I usually stay up till it’s time Suhoor and Fajr. I’m a night owl so chances are I’ll be up all night anyway. Plus this gives me the time to journal and read without the lingering feeling of caffeine and nicotine withdrawals.

Describe your Suhoor/Sehri routine.

I start with my nighttime skincare routine. Once that’s done and I’m feeling as moisturized as possible I read some Quran until I need to head to the kitchen to figure out what to eat.

Favorite Suhoor/Sehri meal or go-to snack?

Oatmeal or croissants are my go-to. I make sure I take my vitamins as well. Oh and water. Lots and lots of water. 

How does your workflow change throughout the month? 

I work in the production field which is super hectic and has very long hours. Ramadan is very slow which is nice. I’m kind of forced to chill out and actually ground myself considering how hectic the past few months have been. 

What intentions do you put behind fasting? 

Fasting for the right reasons. For years I would just fast because I had to. My parents said I have to or society says I have to. This time around I wanted to fast for all the right reasons. For this month specifically, it’s for disciplinary purposes. I have a love/hate relationship with food and my anxiety plays a huge part in that. So giving myself a month to actually focus on eating properly and nourishing myself has been amazing.

How are you connecting with loved ones at this time? 

Facetime. I literally use it every day to speak to friends and family abroad. Covid has made it hard the past two years to do the usual Ramadan rituals. Iftars and Suhoors outside aren’t what they used to be. I also make it a point to have Iftar with my extended family at least twice a week. 

What do you hope to accomplish and/or take away from this Ramadan? 

I hope to have read a sufficient amount of the Quran. I used to have the whole first Juz memorized somehow but now I have the memory of a goldfish. So reading it in its entirety is the goal. Also taking everything day by day. Trying to truly chill.

Ahmed Samy, DJ/Filmmaker

How’s your Ramadan going so far? 

Ramadan is always a month full of good times and memories, good food, great company, staying up late watching ridiculous TV shows hoping for more than one good show. 

It’s the second Ramadan since the pandemic, how does this year compare to the last?

Last Ramadan, I wasn’t working for the first time in a few years. I wasn’t filming a TV show (I am an Assistant Director, and I am usually part of the Ramadan TV show season) in Egypt, was also going through a lockdown, so getting around was a bit of a hassle. This year, it’s more or less back to the norm, crunch time, crazy hours trying to meet deadlines and deliver episodes to the networks that will air them. It’s nice to hang the DJ hat for a bit, and get absorbed for 3 months in this other completely different field.

Do you have a specific focus or intention for the month?

Every year I try to further my career in film and TV and I’ve been successfully doing that. As for non-career focuses, it’s hard because I don’t have time for much else with 16-18 hr workdays 6 days a week, it’s almost impossible. I guess my focus or goal is to remain sane through it all.

Do you usually wake-up for Suhoor/Sehri?

My bedtime, or wake up time, is dependent on the work call sheet for the shoot.

Describe your Suhoor/Sehri routine.

If I am working- which I often am, I eat at work. If I’m not working, I’m asleep.

Favorite Suhoor/Sehri meal or go-to snack?

I enjoy food in Ramadan, I try not to have too much food before bed. I am really not picky, the usual foul, falafel, eggs, cheese and yoghurt is more than enough and enjoyable.

How does your workflow change throughout the month? 

Like I said, parties are on hold, so it’s good to get an annual break and I am usually very busy shooting. It’s good to put the DJing on hold because it always gives me that fresh mind when I get back to music.

What intentions do you put behind fasting? 

Because of the crazy hours, I haven’t been fasting lately. I do fast on my off days. It’s a nice way to practice spirituality. I wish I was able to or had the time or luxury to fast more often, it’s something I intend to do more of in the future.

How are you connecting with loved ones at this time? 

My family is big on Ramadan, we have gatherings and certain unbreakable traditions. Iftar first week is usually at a designated family member’s, sadly because of Corona, and because we’re a huge family, we’ve been doing less of those.

What do you hope to accomplish and/or take away from this Ramadan? 

I am happy for the success that my TV show (Ded el Kasr) is receiving. We’ll be done filming around the last week of Ramadan, so that last week I will get plenty of rest, eat well, go back to exercising a lot, because, after Eid I am going to be working on a big film, as well as a few gigs lined up.

Rihab Nubi, Visual Designer

How’s your Ramadan going so far? 

Honestly, I was so caught up with life right before it started and wasn’t able to take the time to prepare myself for it mentally. So when it came around I fumbled and started it off a little bumpy, but 4 days in I managed to find my pace and get my head around it and it’s been going beautiful since then, Alhamdulillah.

It’s the second Ramadan since the pandemic, how does this year compare to the last?

I think last year there was a whole lot going on in the world, I was still processing the fact that we were actually in a pandemic which made it really difficult to focus on practicing Ramadan and enjoying it. Add to that, it was also the first time we were seeing Ramadan without the element of coming together or gathering, which made it feel very unfamiliar. Since then, I have made peace with the idea that this pandemic is probably here to stay for a long time. I am trying to take advantage of this new way of living by going back to the roots of Ramadan and seeing it as 80% internal and 20% external. So this year, Ramadan has been so much more personal, I’m taking the time to renew and refocus my energy back to things that matter to me spiritually, mentally, as well as physically. 

Do you have a specific focus or intention for the month?

For the longest time, I considered myself a pretty patient person, recently I realized there are two types of patience. The easier one, where you know there will be pay-off or satisfaction at the end, and more difficult where you have absolutely no idea or guarantee of the outcome. The second type requires me to let go of control, to let go of the idea that I can fix everything, to have faith that things will fall the way they should, that’s the type of patience I’m focusing on this Ramadan. 

Do you usually wake-up for Suhoor/Sehri?

Yes, I’ve totally been waking up for Suhoor. I try to make something that is worth waking up for so I look forward to it, cause god knows I’m not a fan of breaking up my sleep. I gotta be up early for a full day of work so I try my best to avoid changing my sleep schedule but make exceptions on weekends. 

Describe your Suhoor/Sehri routine.

Well, it’s pretty short, to be honest: Wake up about 15 mins before the Fajr prayer, have my Suhoor and try to chug as much water as possible in intervals so I don’t feel sick, pray the Fajr, and knock out back to sleep.

Favorite Suhoor/Sehri meal or go-to snack?

Recently I’ve been obsessed with making a greek yoghurt parfait with granola, fruits, pistachios, almond butter, and honey, along with a cup of coconut water for extra hydration!

How does your workflow change throughout the month? 

I’m a 9 – 6 girl so I don’t really have much of an option when it comes to my workflow, I’ve gotten used to working while fasting and I find it extremely difficult to be productive after the sunset. 

What intentions do you put behind fasting? 

The renewal of my spirituality, refocusing of my emotional and mental energy, and taking the time to self-introspect with no judgement or distractions are always the main intentions. I think every year, I am learning new things about myself, both strengths and weaknesses, overcoming new challenges, and finding new intentions for the coming Ramadan. 

How are you connecting with loved ones at this time? 

Alhamdulilah, I’m super blessed to be able to live with my direct family so I spend all of Ramadan with them. I have extended family and loved ones living in different places around the world, and I usually video call them to connect and catch up.

What do you hope to accomplish and/or take away from this Ramadan? 

I love the idea of seasons, changing your routine for a period of time to shift your energy and focus, and come out of it renewed. It gives you a different perspective and allows you the space to see the bigger picture or the parts of the picture you couldn’t see before. This Ramadan, I would love to accomplish a sense of renewal of my faith and spirituality, as well as the ability to let go of control and work on my patience. “But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you.” [2:216]

Myhra Mirza, Founder of Niyya

How’s your Ramadan going so far? 

Alhamdulilah it’s going good! We are now around halfway through so my body is definitely feeling tired and drained but am thankful to be working from home for it. It helps for me to achieve some of my goals I had set this month as well as sneak in a nap if needed.

It’s the second Ramadan since the pandemic, how does this year compare to the last?

I feel like I was more mentally prepared for this one versus last year since this it was more expected and we have been living like this for over a year now. There are a bunch of great resources (live-streamed talks, virtual Iftars, etc) that came on to the scene last year that has allowed me to stay focused on my intentions. Last year we were in a more serious lockdown in NYC so I wasn’t really seeing people at all, nor was a leaving my apartment much. This year, I’m making plans to see some friends here and there for an outdoor park Iftars, so that is nice to look forward to from a community aspect. I was also blessed to find a virtual group of strong spiritual women who have been doing daily virtual Dhikr circles that I have found very nourishing to my spirit. 

Do you have a specific focus or intention for the month?

Yes, basically to immerse myself more into building a connection to God. So that is through staying regular with my prayers, reading a little of the Quran both in English (so I can understand it) and in Arabic daily, tuning into Tafseers, trying to memorize very short Surahs. Doing Dhikr and Taraweeh, and reading a few pages about the life of our Prophet PBUH. I’m very thankful for my space and the mats I created as I switch them out daily to change up my routine/ what I see on a daily basis when I’m in my prayers.

Do you usually wake-up for Suhoor/Sehri?

I am by no means a morning person so it is truly a struggle… But yes I’ve been getting up!

Describe your Suhoor/Sehri routine.

I’ll usually lay in bed a bit too longer than I’m supposed to so tend to set my alarm for 30 mins till Fajr. Get up and eat, read my Fajr and then literally jump back into bed to sleep. Days I’m not feeling so tired I may read some Quran in bed for 30 mins, but I definitely always go back to sleep, I’m not someone who can stay up the whole day.

Favorite Suhoor/Sehri meal or go-to snack?

I’ll Soak chia seeds in a mix of milk/coconut water the night before and then drink that with a couple of dates. Have a piece of toast with sautéed mushrooms I had cooked prior with some hummus and cheese. Occasionally if I have time I’ll make some tea too.

How does your workflow change throughout the month? 

It doesn’t really change much, especially since I am still WFH and can take moments out the day to pray without having to find a room at work. I’m blessed that the current project I’m working on isn’t too intense so I am able to balance getting work done at the regular hours and then focus on my spiritual side in-between and after work.

What intentions do you put behind fasting? 

My intentions are always to try and improve myself, work on being more God-centered, and being more aware of my actions.

How are you connecting with loved ones at this time? 

My family is spread out across the US/world and I also live alone so I’m not connecting too closely with them just because we are all on our own schedules. We rely heavily on texting, and the FT when it’s the weekends since our workday evenings are focused more on preparing our own Iftars, etc.

What do you hope to accomplish and/or take away from this Ramadan? 

I feel like this year especially I learned to connect more with my prayers and Duas, and I hope to continue seeking knowledge and implementing them into my day-to-day. I hope that I’m able to keep up some of the habits I’ve been overzealous about so that it becomes easier to maintain as an established routine throughout the rest of the year iA.